A good roast chicken is the best dinner of all. We used to agonize over how to make factory chickens taste good. Now, thankfully, a few local farmers raise grain-fed chickens to have flavor, the old-fashioned way. One trick for great roast chicken at home is to salt and pepper the bird a day in advance, to cure it very lightly. This produces a bird thoroughly seasoned down to the bone.
Do not ignore the delicious caramelized drippings in the pan. After the fat is poured off, the pan can be deglazed with white wine and the juices added to a sauce or vinaigrette.
Total Timea day or more
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Textureherby, savory
- 1 roasting chicken, weighing about 3½ pounds
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- A few sprigs thyme or marjoram
Remove any organs from the cavity and reserve for another use. Rinse the bird with cold water and pat dry. Liberally salt and pepper the entire bird, inside the cavity and all over the surface, including the back, wings, and inner and outer thighs. Carefully loosen the skin from the breast meat with your index finger. Stuff tender sprigs of thyme or marjoram under the skin. Tie the legs together with butcher’s twine. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before roasting. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the chicken, breast up, in a roasting pan or earthenware baking dish, and roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, and cook for another 45 minutes, turning the bird twice during the cooking, so each wing side is up in turn. This will circulate the juices and fat and keep the meat moist. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Variation: Flavor the chicken with lemon, garlic, and rosemary, both under the skin and in the cavity.
NotesDo not ignore the delicious caramelized drippings in the pan. After the fat is poured off, the pan can be deglazed with white wine and the juices added to a sauce or vinaigrette.
1999 Alice L. Waters